France checking identity of murder suspect held in Scotland

A police car is parked in front of the former house where Xavier Dupont De Ligonnes is suspected of having killed his wife and his four children 8 years ago, on October 12, 2019 in Nantes. — AFP pic
A police car is parked in front of the former house where Xavier Dupont De Ligonnes is suspected of having killed his wife and his four children 8 years ago, on October 12, 2019 in Nantes. — AFP pic

PARIS, Oct 12 — The French authorities said today they were checking the identity of a man arrested in Scotland and believed to have vanished eight years ago following the murder of his wife and four children.

French judicial sources had said yesterday that police at Glasgow airport had arrested Xavier Dupont de Ligonnes, who was subject to an international arrest warrant for the 2011 killings which transfixed France.

The French state prosecutor in Nantes, site of the murders, said identity checks were being carried out to establish if the arrested man was really Xavier Dupont de Ligonnes.

“Investigators are going to Scotland to carry out the checks and the investigating magistrate is waiting for the results,” prosecutor Pierre Sennes told AFP.

Dupont de Ligonnes was stopped in Glasgow airport after arriving on a flight from Paris, according to two French sources close to the investigation.

The sources confirmed that a fingerprint match had been made but one said a DNA analysis was being conducted so as to be “totally sure” it was him.

Another source said Dupont de Ligonnes was travelling on a stolen French passport and had likely spent part of his time on the run in Britain.

The 58-year-old is suspected of shooting his family dead and burying them under the terrace of their townhouse in Nantes, western France.

Their bodies were found three weeks after the killings during which time Dupont de Ligonnes reportedly told his teenage children’s school he had been transferred to a job in Australia.

He is said to have told friends he was a US secret agent who was being taken into a witness protection programme.

French prosecutors have said he killed all five of his victims in a “methodical execution”, shooting them each twice in the head at close range with a weapon fitted with a silencer.

He is believed to have covered them in quicklime and wrapped them in sheets before burying them under concrete.

Earlier yesterday, officers had picked out the suspect at the French capital’s Charles de Gaulle airport but there was not enough time to seize him, so they alerted British police, who confirmed an arrest had been made.

The man “remains in police custody in connection with a European Arrest Warrant issued by the French Authorities”, a Police Scotland spokeswoman said.

For years France has been gripped by the question of how Dupont de Ligonnes had disappeared without trace, with some suggesting he may have killed himself. Hundreds of reported sightings only added to the mystery.

In 2015, a letter and photo of two of his sons, signed with his name and the message “I am still alive”, was delivered to an AFP journalist but experts could not verify its authenticity.

The alleged killer evaded a police dragnet in the Var region of southern France in January last year after witnesses reported seeing a man resembling him near a monastery. — AFP